8 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 2 - October 2014

  • Text
  • October
  • Toronto
  • Choir
  • November
  • Concerts
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Includes the 2014 Blue Pages Member Directory

composition Falling Man,

composition Falling Man, by Kenneth Fuchs,on September 11, 2014. Based on the 9/11novel by Don DeLillo,the music immediatelyevokes comparisonswith JohnAdams’ On theTransmigration ofSouls, the brillianttribute to the victimsof the World TradeCentre terrorist attack. Where Adams wrotemusic that is elegiac and impossibly transcendent,Fuchs offers a much more personalreflection, tender and almost dazed in theaftermath of disaster. Though structurallydodecaphonic, the music does not strictlyadhere to any blueprint, delivering lyrical andnearly romantic themes of a personal heartbreakin the face of a very public tragedy.A champion of Fuchs’ music, JoAnn Fallettaconducts the LSO brilliantly; but the realstar of this recording is Roderick Williams,whose soft, velvety baritone belies the harshdescriptions of falling ash and human artifactsraining down on Wall Street thathorrible morning. The companion pieces onthe album, based on poems by John Updikeand William Blake, including the incomparableTyger, do not reveal such immediateconnection with our recent past and deserveto be listened to on their own, within adifferent context.Robert TomasFor more Vocal reviews check where Janos Gardonyihas good things to say about a new recordingof Strauss’ Elektra, Dianne Wells find goodreasons for yet another Fauré Requiemrelease and Roger Knox has mixed feelingsabout Harrison Birtwistle’s opera Gawain.EARLY MUSIC AND PERIOD PERFORMANCEÉtienne Moulinié – Meslanges pour laChapelle d’un PrinceEnsemble Correspondances; SébastienDaucéHarmonia Mundi HMC 902194Étienne Mouliniéserved for 30 yearsas musician to LouisXIII’s brother theDuke of Orléans;his sacred musicis important to thedevelopment of midseventeenth-centuryFrench music. This CDbrings together twelve singers in imitation ofthe original standard configuration, and tenmusicians.The serenity of this arrangement – togetherwith its sometimes excitable stretches – isbrought home in the first three pieces byMoulinié. Antoine Boësset’s Jesu nostraredemptio is far more spiritual, introducingparts for higher vocal registers as wellas organ and viol. This ethereal qualitycontinues in Cantate Domino (despite thewords which exhort the listener to praise Godwith trumpets, cornets and horns – directbiblical quotations) and the organ playingof director Sébastien Daucé in O bone Jesu.Reflecting the sound choice of pieces on theCD, Boësset’s Populus meus sets words ofreproach to yet another celestial arrangement.Two allemandes by François de Chancyare included in the anthology. Theydemonstrate the compositions that Mouliniécould incorporate into his repertoire, reinforcinghis position with the duke, and also theearly stages whereby country dances such asthe allemande were adopted by court circlesand eventually became staples as baroquemovements.The duke took a second wife in 1632, apious lady to whom Moulinié dedicatedthe most inspiring and yearning piece inthis compilation. The Litanies de la Viergecomprises a series of entreaties to the Trinityand many other sacred beings. Eleven voicescreate a moving spirituality, imploring butnever despairing.Michael SchwartzLamento (Kapsperger; Rossi; Carissimi;Strozzi; Frescobaldi; Monteverdi;Provenzale)Romina Basso; Latinitas Nostranaïve V5390Monteverdi’sLamento d’Ariannapioneered the artform known as thelamento, where thedeath of a famousfigure was commemoratedby a solosinger accompaniedby basso continuo. In addition, techniquessuch as dissonant chords and melodies withwide leaps would add their own sense oflamentation.Latinitas Nostra is a Greek ensemble;their west-looking title refers to the flourishingGreek communities in places such asLondon and Venice. Soprano Romina Bassobegins with Luigi Rossi’s lament by theQueen of Sweden for her husband GustavusII Adolphus, the brilliant commander killedat Lützen in 1632. The lament combinesthe Queen’s sense of desperation with anexhortation to kill and strike the Germans,Spaniards and Italians without mercy. RominaBasso rises to this varied emotional challengewith passion, whether one considersthis to be a true lament or a plea to crushSweden’s enemies.Mary Queen of Scots is the next subjectof lament, in this case by Carissimi. Herethe tone is again a mix of lamentation andanger: Mary protests her death sentence andexpresses resentment against the Englishregime that created this situation. Vibratoeffects enhance the sense of anger. Basso andher continuo admirably meet the demands ofthe lament.Then, one of the most accomplishedlady composers of all time, Barbara Strozzi.Lagrime mie lingers over its text and usespauses to reinforce the emotion. Strozzi’sinterpretation makes full use of what onemight call surges of melody to reinforce theintended effects of the lament.And then to Monteverdi with Lamentod’Arianne in its five parts. If ever there was afine basso continuo accompanying a lamentothis was it. All the instruments involved maketheir presence felt, sometimes supporting andenhancing the plaintive singing, sometimesalmost mocking it.Finally, and to be frank, out of place, isFrancesco Provenzale’s “lament” for GustavusII Adolphus. This is less respectful in its lyrics,almost poking fun at his queen as she learnsof his fate. There are exchanges of dialoguewhich, from the English translation, containdouble entendres and undignified comments.In fact, this is not a solo lament; it is accompaniedby other voices and the sleeve notesinform us that musicologists have not quiteworked out why it was composed. It mayjust have coincided with Gustavus’ daughterChristina’s spectacular conversion toCatholicism in 1655.This CD is a fine introduction to a musicalform both delicate and forceful.Michael SchwartzCLASSICAL AND BEYONDRimsky-Korsakov – ScheherazadeToronto Symphony Orchestra; PeterOundjianChandos CHSA 5145Rimsky-Korsakov – ScheherazadeBorusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra;Sascha GoetzelOnyx 4124About half acentury ago the questionwas asked bysome aspiring recordcompany person“How do you decidewhat to record?”The sage answer was“Look in the Schwanncatalogue and find the most recorded workand make one more.”The TSO disc contains a live performancefrom Roy Thomson Hall recorded inJune 2013. The orchestra is in top form andthe playing is rock solid with Oundjianconducting an interpretation that does notstray from the usual way in which thispopular orchestral showpiece is heard. Thereare some lovely turns of phrase and the tuttisare thrillingly open and dynamic. The“star ofany Scheherazade is the first violin, the voiceof the storyteller who must hold the attentionof the imperious Sultan Shahryār or lose herhead. Concertmaster Jonathan Crow’sengaging charm makes her irresistible.66 | October 1 - November 7, 2014

I would have liked to have the luxuriousrecorded sound more articulate but this is aslight quibble. The audience is not heard frombut I am sure they leapt to their feet in appreciationas Toronto audiences now seem to dono matter what.Sascha Goetzel isthe Austrian musicdirector of theBorusan InstanbulPhilharmonic thatbegan as a chamberorchestra in 1993and was augmentedto become the Philharmonic in 1999. This istheir third CD. Part of the uniqueness of thisScheherazade is the use of oriental instruments.The opening of the first tale finds heraccompanied, not by a harp but a qanun, aplucked zither or dulcimer-like instrument.It is innocently gentle and appropriate. Beforethe second movement begins there is a moodsettingsolo from the oud, a lute-like instrument,and before the final movement webriefly hear the qanun which supports herin the final pages. Throughout, there is anebullient texture to the orchestral playing,revealing subtle flavours in familiar passages,particularly the quieter episodes. The uncluttered,spacious recording is as vital as theperformance.Balakirev’s knuckle-breaking piano spectacularIslamey is heard in the orchestrationby Lyapunov and although not a majorwork in the great scheme of things, it is adashing showpiece. The two Ippolitov-IvanovCaucasian Sketches are Procession of theSardar and a disarmingly tranquil In theVillage, featuring the slightly breathy neyflute, a classical Turkish reed instrument. Thefinal piece on this generously filled 77-minutedisc, Köçekçe is new to me. It is a dance rhapsodyfor orchestra. Turkish composer UlviCemal Erkin (1906-1972), a member of the“Turkish Five,” studied in Paris with, ofcourse, Nadia Boulanger and Köçekçe is hismost popular work.Bottom line: Not just another Scheherazadebut a unique and arresting performance withoriental overtones together with some verytasty encores, recorded to perfection. I knowthat it’s pedestrian but I would like to hear anall-out Polovtsian Dances from this group.Bruce SurteesThe Romantic Violin Concerto Vol.16:Busoni; StraussTanja Becker-Bender; BBC ScottishSymphony Orchestra; Garry WalkerHyperion CDA68044There is some simply beautiful musicon Wood Works, the latestCD from the Danish StringQuartet (Dacapo 8.226081),but it’s not necessarily what youwould expect to hear. In theirdescription of the recording thequartet members say that theyborrowed a selection of Nordic folktunes that are very close to theirhearts and “let the music flowthrough the wooden instrumentsof the string quartet.” All but oneof the 13 tracks are arrangementsby the quartet members, andthey are very effective, retainingthe simplicity of the folk musicwhile adding a quite moderntouch in places. Some of thetunes, as you would expect, areclearly fiddle-based in origin,but there is a lovely range ofmood and tempo here. I’m notsure why they felt it necessaryto add an anonymous jazztrumpet solo to Five Sheep,Four Goats, though!On the sleeve notes thequartet wonders “Does itwork?” Yes, it does. It’s acharming, relaxing and thoroughlysatisfying CD.Violinist Tianwa Yang has often beenfeatured in this column over the past fewyears, mainly because of her outstandingNaxos series of the complete violin musicof Pablo Sarasate, and she has now let looseher remarkable talents on the Sonatasfor Solo Violin Op.27 by Eugene Ysaÿe(Naxos 8.572995).This is the fourth CD I’ve received thatfeatures all six of these astonishing works,TERRY ROBBINSarguably the greatest contributionto the solo violin repertoire sincethe Bach Sonatas & Partitas thatwere, in part, their inspiration, andit again highlights the difficultyin trying to make comparisonsbetween the various versions.There are close to two dozencurrently available on CD, and whilemany of the biggest namesare missing there are certainlyenough outstanding recordingsto make choosing a top recommendationvirtually impossible.The good news, of course, isthat there’s no need to. This isclearly one of those epic works– like the Bach unaccompanied– where owning one version issimply never enough. TianwaYang’s current performance, whereher faultless technique enablesher to delve deeply into the heart ofthese remarkable sonatas, is certainlyone that you’ll want and will keepgoing back to.The brilliant young Russian violinistAlina Ibragimova adds yet anotherstunning CD to her catalogue withProkofiev Violin Sonatas and FiveMelodies (Hyperion CDA67514).Cédric Tiberghien, her regular keyboardpartner, is missing this time, but theoutstanding British pianist Steven Osborneproves to be an ideal choice as replacement.Prokofiev’s music for violin and pianoseems to be attracting a lot of recording attentionthese days: this is the third CD of thesame three works to come my way just thisyear, following the James Ehnes and JonathanCrow discs reviewed in this column inFebruary and April respectively.As fine as those CDs were, Ibragimovaproves to be quite irresistible in her performanceshere, showing the same fire, intensity,subtlety and intellect that helped make herlive Wigmore Hall 3CD set of the completeBeethoven sonatas with Tiberghien such aremarkable issue.There’s another CD of violin music by theearly 20th-century Russian Jewish virtuosoJoseph Achron, this time on a Naxos CD of hisMusic for Violin and Piano featuring BuffaloPhilharmonic concertmaster Michael Ludwigand pianist Alison d’Amato (8.573240).Achron not only had a remarkable careeras a soloist but also enjoyed great success asa composer, although his music fell out offavour following his death in 1943, just shortof his 57th birthday. Most of his works haveremained unpublished, and those that werein print suffered badly: his early publisherswent out of business following the RussianRevolution, and nearly a dozen workspublished by Universal Edition were forcedout of print by the Nazis when Achron wasblacklisted in the 1930s. Achron’s music doesseem to be making a comeback, however.Hagai Shaham’s terrific 2CD Hyperion set ofthe Complete Suites for Violin and Piano wasreviewed in this column in September 2012,and Naxos has also issued the Violin ConcertoNo.1 in a performance by Elmar Oliveira.The titles here are mostly short early piecesfrom before the First World War that encompassmany different moods. Michael Ludwig’sbig, rich tone is perfectly suited to the styleand nature of Achron’s music, deeply influencedas it was by Jewish folklore andmelodies, and he and d’Amato give performancesthat are idiomatic and technicallystunning.Strings Attached continues with violinsonatas by Ildebrando Pizzettiand Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco performedby Hagai Shaham October 1 - November 7, 2014 | 67

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